Thursday, February 22, 2007

They're really impostors

I'M PROBABLY THE biggest fan of Hall and Oates on this planet (Oates especially), and I know they’re old-old-school, but -- c’mon. How do professional entertainers, who presumably have managers and PR people, let a couple of clowns such as this one and this one steal what oughta be their MySpace pages?

I gotta admit though, the second one is funny. And the first guy, when I first visited a few weeks ago, has this wacked out hip-hop-swing-marching-band song from these Brooklynite goofsters. But now he's got this redickulous remix of the Muppets' "Movin' Right Along" ... (Haven't heard this song in about 25 years, but I'll be diddly-dong danged if I didn't recognize it after about the first four bars.)

* POSTSCRIPT: Somehow, since I wrote this post, it seems that the real Hall and Oates have managed to claim this myspace page for themselves. Now that's good news.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Stop the Catbox?

EVERYBODY LAUGHS AT THAT commercial . And that's because it poses the question that has perplexed young and old alike for over 24 years:

What the hell were the Clash singing?

I was eight when that song came out. I only knew the word "Casbah" because my big sister told me that was the word. (She couldn't say what a casbah was, though.) I knew "kosher" because I had Jewish friends, and I could make out a few other really obvious parts, like "on the radiator grill" or "degenerate the faithful." But as for the rest, between Mick's mush-mouthy, British-accented delivery and my unsophisticated grasp of Middle East politics, I was pretty lost.

So what did I think they were saying?

Now the kid he told the boogie bear
Ya got to let the robber drown
He oiled down the desert wind
Has '
im shakin’ to the town
He shaky drove his Cadillac
He went a cruisin’ down the real
The prison guard's a standin’
On the radiator grill


Cheri don’t like it
Rock the Casbah
Rock the Casbah
Cheri don’t like it
Rock the Casbah
Rock the Casbah

I ordered up the profit
You better prove your sound
Degenerate the faithful
With that crazy Casbah sound
They better when they brought out
The electric cattle drum
They look and get to thinkin’
that he’s goin’ ta break his thumb
Soon as the Cheri cleared the square
Babe began to wail


I'm over at the temple
Oh, they really packed the rim
Think I say it’s cool
To take this child teen thing
But as the wind changed direction
And the temple ground’s on fire
The ground got a will
Oh that crazy Casbah chiiiiiiiiild


The king called up his jet fighters
He said you’d better run your planes
Drop your bombs between the minarets
Now the Casbah way
As soon as the Cheri goes surfin’ outta there
The jet pilots tune to the captain radio blare
Soon as the Cheri gets outta their hair
The jet pilots wail

Cheri don’t like it
Rock the Casbah
He thinks it’s not kosher
From the mental retardation
You know he really hates it

(Now here are the real lyrics.) By the way ... A live version of this song featuring Mick Jones and someone named Rachid Taha, singing in Arabic. Cool.

FROM THE CLASH to ... America? Why the hell not?

America's “You Can Do Magic” is a perfectly crafted pop song in the smooth vein of late '70s/early ‘80s yacht rock.

Now, for some strange reason, something told me last week to record a “ghetto bounce” R&B version of this song, just for fun. Last Sunday I slapped together a demo, complete with six parts of vocal harmony. It actually doesn't sound that bad. I'm wondering why someone hasn't already thought of doing this. Maybe someone like that Usher-sounding kid -- what's his name? -- should try it. It's a hell of a lot better song than "She's Like the Wind."

And whaddya know? I go on YouTube and this song has been resurrected thanks to some Harry Potter fan who’s put this song to captured video of evil warlock Snape.

While we’re talking about great songs of 1982, how about F-Mac’s “Hold Me”?

I loved everything about this song: its dreamy otherworldliness, its piano tinkling, its driving beat, its plucky guitars and percussion, the echo that makes the guitar solo sound like it was played in a canyon, the five-note scale (which is Oriental, but at the time actually made me think of American Indians), and the way McVie, Buckingham, Nicks et al. came off like an unruly, unpolished children’s choir rather than a precision-engineered pop group. I love musicians who are obviously having a lot of fun, and FM were certainly having fun in this song, or at least made it sound so.

But for me, the videos tend to spoil these images -- especially America's original video for "Magic." I'm kinda like Jade, one of the kids I work with in an after-school program, who prefers books without pictures. Just like Jade, I would rather make the pictures in my head.

Monday, February 12, 2007

two fridays of art

"DO YOU LIKE REALISM?” the guy said to me when I poked my head through the door of the tiny but plushly appointed art studio.

The man was Steve, husband of artist Alice McMahon White; the studio was one of many in Chicago's fine Fine Arts Building: a stately, storied old edifice that originally served as a Studebaker carriage and wagon factory and now houses a variety of artists and related organizations. (For a few months during college I had worked at the art-house theater that formerly occupied the first floor; when not busy I was always snooping around in the building's nooks and crannies.)

Still clutching a half-drunk glass of red wine from the last gallery, I gazed appreciatively about the small studio, crammed with intricate wall- and easel-mounted works, mostly portraits in pencil and pastel. I told Steve I thought it was about time for realism to stage a comeback.
He let me know that a comeback, of sorts, is happening right now.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Reality, fiction and football

SEEING THAT TRUTH is stranger than fiction, I tend not to spend much time on the latter any more. But in its own way fiction still can be powerful. Right now I'm starting Bukowski's Factotum, which I should've read long ago. (Partner in grime Annabelle dumps books on me as if I had nothing to do but read books -- which would be nice.)

Bukowski wastes no time in this novel. By the time you get to the bottom of page one -- and it's only a half-page -- you've already got great descriptive writing, you've got man vs. the elements, you've got poverty and down-at-the-heelness, you've got a bit of mystery about who's this protagonist and where's he going and why he's in this situation -- and most intriguing, you've already got sexual tension. Interracial sexual tension, at that.

If you're gonna write a story, you may as well start with a bang, I mused while reading.

The Bears started out with a bang last night. It turns out, though, that they only had a couple of rounds in the chamber.

THE AIR FORCE is aggressively hunting new bomb fodder with the help of commercials run during the Super Bowl and on MTV. They're all about action, speed, excitement, boys playing with cool toys and enjoying teamwork and manly camaraderie and the self-realization of belonging to something bigger than oneself. War as a kind of extreme sport.

Of course, these exciting, adrenaline- and testosterone-releasing images and messages are the stock-in-trade of military recruitment ads. And such techniques are common to advertising in general, which works on the emotions rather than logic and usually hypes the positive while omitting the negative. So is the USAF being an exceptional liar? By one standard, perhaps not.

But to bring a sense of perspective to it, one might argue that the higher the stakes involved, the less defensible the lie. Most ads, fundamentally dishonest though they may be, aren't selling you a product that inherently includes the risk of getting your arms, legs, face or man parts blown off, or getting turned into flame-broiled hamburger -- or having to do the same to other men, women and children you've never met and in most cases will never even see. Or perhaps taking part in "domestic surveillance" against fellow Americans. Seems to me that military recruitment ads ought to be required to provide, oh, I don't know, maybe just a smidgen of actual reality?

Even MTV has "The Real World." When are we going to see "The Real World: Iraq"?

Speaking of which, I salute this guy for exhibiting a kind of bravery they don't seem to teach in the military.